George Clooney plays U.S. Democratic Party candidate Gov. Mike Morris in the political thriller The Ides of March.

George Clooney plays U.S. Democratic Party candidate Gov. Mike Morris in the political thriller The Ides of March.

Aisle Seat: Political thriller needs more spin

The Ides of March: Three stars out of 5. Jason Armstrong film review.

  • Oct. 16, 2011 3:00 p.m.

Politics can be a very dirty business.  And in a movie like The Ides of March, the dirtier, the better.

Directed by and starring George Clooney (even though he takes a backseat role in front of the camera, allowing Ryan Gosling to take the wheel of what should be yet another star-making vehicle), The Ides of March is a crackling gem as far as performances go: Clooney, Gosling and Paul Giamatti especially bring their A-game to March. But Clooney’s bare bones presentation –– while it is gritty –– probably hurts his project in the energy department. The film is a wee bit lethargic.

Clooney plays Democratic candidate Gov. Mike Morris, engaged in a presidential primary in the swing state of Ohio. Gosling is his press secretary, Stephen Meyers.

While he scoffs at one media member’s suggestion that he “drank the Kool-Aid,” it’s obvious that Meyers believes in his guy to a dangerous level. That, bolstered by his idealistic stances on the issues, Morris is somehow beyond corruption. Uh huh. Right.

Meyers’ mentor is Paul Zara (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), Morris’ rumpled and exhausted campaign manager, a veteran in the sport of politics, which probably explains why he’s constantly second guessing everyone and everything. Enter Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti), the campaign manager of Morris’ rival, who invites Meyers to meet him in an out-of-the-way pub to “have a chat.”

It’s a no-no to fraternize with the enemy, but even more dangerous when secrets get spilled and your own side no longer trusts you.

To divulge any more in the synopsis would be revealing essential spoilers (hint: there’s an affair involved, but in a movie like this, ain’t there ALWAYS?), just know that The Ides of March has more than enough juice to keep you hanging.

Clooney, certainly no rookie at the helm (this is the fifth feature film he’s directed), knows how to build suspense. It’s just too bad the script bogs down the journey.  The story is a little predictable, and there’s sure no rush to get it out. The Ides of March is a cooker, sure. But it’s a slow cooker.

The feature is currently playing at Galaxy Cinemas in Vernon.

–– Jason Arrmstrong is the longtime film reviewer for The Morning Star.